While cosmetics like foundation have become more inclusive, offering a wider range of shades (a shift the industry calls the “Fenty effect”), skincare, and more specifically sunscreen, has lagged behind. Sun protection may be on Rihanna’s mind as she develops her forthcoming skincare collection, but in the meantime, another beauty entrepreneur is working to close the SPF gap. Last week tennis star Venus Williams announced a major collaboration with clean beauty retailer Credo Beauty and Ottawa-based The Sunscreen Company, launching a mineral-based face serum and body sunscreen formulated specifically to work with every skin tone. “Over the years, I’ve found that many natural sunscreens leave a white cast,” Williams told Glossy. “It was a priority for this product to not only protect, but to be lightweight, adaptable and work for every skin tone.”
So how did a small Canadian brand get the honour of helping one of the world’s top athletes bring her vision to life? Williams had been in touch with Credo about creating a clean sunscreen (a natural addition to her activewear collection EleVen by Venus Williams, which features UPF 50+ fabric), but they needed a partner to develop the formula. The Sunscreen Company CEO Sara Dudley says they had been in touch with Credo’s buyer back in 2018, sending samples and speaking over the phone, “so they knew who we were and what kind of sunscreens we made.” Then in early 2019, when Oprah and Michelle Obama’s facialist (and fellow Canadian) Jennifer Brodeur revealed that she’d been using The Sunscreen Company’s products on the First Lady, the dots connected for Credo, Dudley says.
The two products, Unrivaled Sun Serum and On-the-Defense Sunscreen, feature SPF 35 and 30, respectively, and are made with 25 percent zinc oxide (which protects against UVA and UVB rays), a pretty jaw dropping number to anyone who has lamented the chalky finish of physical sunscreens, many of which weigh in at between 7 to 12 percent. (For the record, the brand’s co-founder dermatologist Dr. Sharyn Laughlin believes anything less than 15 percent isn’t adequate.) “Zinc oxide is a big, heavy particle,” says Dudley. When you have a significant amount in a formula, getting a sheer finish and a texture that is “lightweight and silky-feeling” is challenging. What makes the formula work for all skin tones is something called index matching. “It’s where you match the refractive index of the zinc oxide to the emollient that it’s dispersed in,” she explains. In other words, the moisturizing portion of the formula (which is the emollient) acts almost like a camouflage to the zinc. “It’s a unique technology,” says Dudley, that ensures it will look “100 percent transparent on skin, with minimal blending.” And because it’s mineral-based, it’s also considered to be reef safe, of note for when we eventually start travelling again, especially to vacation spots that have banned certain chemical sunscreen filters, which have been linked to coral bleaching.
With Williams’ demanding tour schedule and constant travel, face-to-face meetings with her weren’t possible, says Dudley, but Williams helped test and fine-tune the formula remotely, whether she was at home in Florida or elsewhere. “I would send samples, and then I would look on her Instagram and think ‘they’re in the Bahamas on a yacht. I wonder if she’s handing out the samples to her friends, and getting their feedback, too’” says Dudley laughing.
While the new products aren’t available for Canadians to purchase yet, there are comparable products in The Sunscreen Company’s lineup, says Dudley, namely the new Ava Isa Sun-è-Serum Drops SPF 35 and recently reformulated CyberDERM Every Morning Sun Whip SPF 30. And of course there’s the now cult favourite product Brodeur used on Obama: CyberDERM Simply Zinc Ultra SPF 50.
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